AUSTIN, Texas - Waiting for the end of the world on Dec. 21? Doomsdayers may be disappointed.
A University of Texas art history professor has deciphered a reference in Maya hieroglyphs to the so-called doomsday date of Dec. 21, 2012, and has found that there is no prediction about the end of time.
David Stuart unlocked the meaning of hieroglyphs at an archaeological site in Guatemala. He says the hieroglyphs suggest that the 2012 reference was instead a bit of political spin on the part of a Maya ruler hoping to assuage his followers after he was defeated in battle.
The ruler said the defeat was just part of a larger cycle of time, one that would end in 2012, after which another cycle would begin.
Stuart, along with scholars from Tulane University and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, made the announcement Thursday in Guatemala.
The newly interpreted hieroglyphs were discovered at the La Corona site of Maya ruins in northwest Guatemala, where Stuart has been conducting research for 15 years.
A stone staircase at La Corona turned out to be a hieroglyph-filled record of 200 years of La Corona's political history, its allies and its enemies.
On one of the staircase blocks, Stuart recognized among its 56 carved glyphs the so-called doomsday date.
"The monument commemorated a royal visit to La Corona in the year 696 by the most powerful Maya ruler of that time, a few months after his defeat by a long-standing rival in AD 695," Stuart said.
"It was a time of great political turmoil in the Maya region, and this king felt compelled to allude to a larger cycle of time that happens to end in 2012."
The Maya's "Long Count" calendar - which spans roughly 5,125 years starting in 3114 B.C. - reaches the end of a cycle on Dec. 21, 2012.
Other scholars also have suggested that for the Maya, the end of the Long Count calendar also implies the beginning of a new calendar, not the end of time on Earth as many New Age believers have proposed.